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Local veterans and businesses came together to help this child care facility
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Jamie Reynolds, executive director of Sisu Integrated Early Learning, stands under the nonprofit's new shaded structure on March 17, 2021. Funding for the architecture was donated by the Rock Creek Vietnam Veterans. - photo by Kelsey Podo

When Jamie Reynolds looks at the new shaded structure outside Sisu Integrated Early Learning in Gainesville, she sees more than a red and blue piece of architecture.

“This may not seem like a big deal, but this is a huge deal for our community to have more real estate to play, learn and to be able to use this little spot as a venue for our graduation,” Reynolds, the nonprofit’s executive director, said. “Children can come under here, be socially distanced and not have sun be a factor.”

In October 2020, the Rock Creek Vietnam Veterans donated $4,000 to the nonprofit to help them purchase a 20-by-20-foot shade structure to use as an outdoor classroom and other space. Sisu, formally known as Challenged Child and Friends, provides a learning environment for special needs children six weeks of age to 6 years old.  

Reynolds said Carroll Daniel Construction contributed free labor to erecting the structure, saving the nonprofit another $4,000. She noted that Kipper Tool Company and M&R Rentals stepped up to help, providing a forklift and operator for the delivery of the architecture. An anonymous donor also contributed over $10,000 for constructing a fence around Sisu’s outdoor space.

“This is such an incredible example of what this community can accomplish when we work together,” Reynolds said. “And really, the bottom line is that it (the outdoor structure) really serves children.”

Sisu currently has around 150 kids enrolled at its Gainesville location. 

Johnny Hulsey, who served as an Army tanker during the Vietnam War, said the Rock Creek Veterans raised the funds for the shaded structure through car shows and individual donations. Each year, the group of veterans look for a project to benefit the community. And after visiting Sisu, Hulsey said they felt inspired to help out. 

“It’s so touching that those teachers are so dedicated to teaching and helping those children,” he said. 

Since the shaded structure went up on March 12, Reynolds said it has already become a valued area for Sisu’s kids. 

“Classes have been coming out here to remove themselves from four walls, get some fresh air and use the space as a learning tool,” she said. “We are very very fortunate that the Vietnam veterans came together and helped with the fundraising. They’re a great group of gentlemen.”

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